Student at Mcgill Fights to Remove the Name ‘Redmen’ From Sports Teams
McGill University is currently under pressure to remove the term ‘Redmen’ from its sports teams. A first-year student of the University and member of the rowing team, Tomas Jirousek is leading the cause. According to him, the university needs to take action on the issue because the term Redmen is derogatory and hurtful.
“It hurts to think about all the Indigenous athletes that have been hurt by the Redmen name,” he said.
Jirousek further says it’s been decades of damage caused by the term, and the university needs to address the issue.
“The university hasn’t adequately recognized the history, damage that was done to the Indigenous people, and the fact is the continued usage of the Redmen name just continues perpetuating damage towards Indigenous people,” he said to CTV News. He has a demonstration planned for October 31st.
The name Redmen has been around since the late 1920’s. “Redman” is an offensive slur used to refer to Native Americans in the United States and First Nations in Canada. The term originated from as far back as the 17th century when Native Americans were described as being “reddish” and as “copper-red”.
The term has been a controversial one for a while now. It can be found today in contemporary dictionaries as an offensive term used to disparage or insult. Simply put, it is no longer acceptable to label people by their skin colour.
Although the term is no longer commonly used, it remains as the name of many sports teams. One of the most prominent in sports is the Washington Redskins, and the term’s meaning has been a significant point of controversy. The controversy that often stems from the use of the term, has led to high schools in the United States choosing alternative team names as a result of protests by Native Americans or government regulations.
McGill university however said that its team name has nothing to do with history and everything to do with the colour worn by the team, they have however acknowledged the Indigenous references and connotations attached to the name over the years. To this, Jirousek says, “We’ve had Indigenous logos on jerseys, we’ve had Indigenous logos on helmets, we’ve had depictions in school yearbooks of Indigenous people being scalped.” He goes on to say, “There is no way to separate the Redmen name and indigenous identity.”
The university meanwhile remains apologetic for any harm that may have been caused by the name.
“Much like many other universities in North America, McGill is critically examining issues linking to naming or renaming of assets, teams or programs,” said Fabrice Labeau, McGill’s interim deputy provost, in a statement. “We recognize and regret any harm the unfortunate association of athletic team nicknames to Indigenous cultures during this period may have caused to our indigenous communities.”
A task force on Indigenous Studies launched in the University in 2016 had earlier recommended changing the Redmen name, but the university said it is not prepared to take a stand on the issue yet as more studies are being.
A schoolwide vote on the issue is taking place in November.